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Microplastics in breast milk and placenta, & can lead to cancer!

Plastic is everywhere. Quite literally. With recent research, (micro)plastic is even in what we drink and eat. Even, in the placenta.

By nayanikaphukan
New Update
microplastics in placenta and breast milk

Plastic is everywhere. Quite literally. With recent research, (micro)plastic is even in what we drink and eat. Even, in the placenta. FYI, the placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy.

In a research done in Rome, samples of breastmilk were taken from 32 healthy mothers after giving birth. And, 26 out of the 32 samples showed the presence of microplastics. These traces of microplastics were composed of polyethylene, PVC, and polypropylene. All of these are found in packaging materials. The mother’s consumption of packaged food and drinks was recorded. But, no correlation was found between these products and the presence of microplastics in the milk samples.

Read more: Microplastics found in human breast milk for the first time | Plastics | The Guardian

Another research collected placenta from six mothers after the delivery of the baby. 12 fragments of microplastics were isolated in four human placentas. They did not have answers as to how these microplastics reached the placenta. But, it was suspected maybe have been transported from the mother through the bloodstream, the respiratory system, or the gastrointestinal system. 

Read more: Plasticenta: First evidence of microplastics in human placenta - ScienceDirect

What are micro-plastics?

Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat | Courtesy: Flickr

Microplastics are tiny small plastics that form from the breakdown of larger plastic and result from commercial product development. Primary microplastics are purposefully manufactured and are used in cosmetics, textiles, and clothing.

Whereas secondary microplastics result from the breakdown of larger items such as water bottles, plastic bags, etc. Microplastics are very hard to break down and are known to be very detrimental to the ocean and marine life where it has been detected in whales, plankton, and commercial seafood.

Effects of micro-plastic

These cases show the grave danger the human population is in. A newborn baby is the most vulnerable and for it to be exposed to pollutants such as microplastics is very detrimental to its health. Scientists think we may ingest from dozens to more than 100,000 microplastics each day. And, in a year, this accumulation can be equivalent to the mass of a credit card.

Not much research has been done on the impacts of microplastics on humans, as research on humans is much more difficult than on animals. So far research has been done by exposing human cells or tissues to micro-plastics. Then, by investigating its effects on animals such as mice or rats. It is believed that microplastics are hazardous and have carcinogenic properties i.e. they can cause cancer.

Read more: A rapid review and meta-regression analyses of the toxicological impacts of microplastic exposure in human cells

The study has also shown microplastics can act as endocrine disruptors which can interfere with normal hormone functions. Furthermore, it can also lead to developmental issues. These recent discoveries have worried experts about the baby’s health and other health complications.

But, nonetheless, this research also reveals how in the current state exposure to micro-plastic is inevitable for us.

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